Real Talk is the debut album for young South Carolina-bred bassist Kitt Lyles who earned a degree in Jazz Studies from Northwestern University in 2013. As all the compositions are Lyles,' its success rests as much on his skills as a writer as his serving as a beacon for the sextet's able rhythm section. How does Lyles fare as a composer / arranger? Quite well, actually. His colorful themes, while a stride or two short of memorable, are by and large bright and engaging. The best of them, to these ears, are the gentle "Snowfall on Carolina," the soulful ballad "Though the Steady Hand May Tremble" and the lengthy and aptly named "Blues for the Mountain" (on which everyone, and especially guitarist Hans Luchs, is clearly on the mark and in the groove).
Luchs has another agreeable solo on the warm-hearted finale, "A Desperate Heart's Last Stand," as does tenor Roy McGrath whose crisp ad-libs are always a pleasure to hear. Another forceful soloist, alto Rajiv Halim, lends weight to the sextet on "Real Talk" and the robust opener, "Gone by Now." The rhythm section, comprised of Lyles, pianist Joaquin Garcia (another admirable soloist) and drummer Gustavo Cortinas, is as irrepressible or even-tempered as the moment requires. As several of Lyles' sidemen also hail from Northwestern, it's fair to say the ensemble is as well-schooled as most other groups its size.
To his credit, Lyles keeps the focus on the unit as a whole, serving for the most part in a supporting role and soloing (adeptly) only on "Snowfall," "Steady Hand" and "Blues for the Mountain." The ensemble's other member, trumpeter Justin Copeland, offers a number of incisive statements as well. Real Talk bespeaks a really impressive start for Lyles, one that enfolds the promise of a bright and rewarding future. Let's hope that promise is realized.
Gone by Now; Snowfall on Carolina; Real Talk; Though the Steady Hand May Tremble; Moving Forward, Looking Backward; Blues for the Mountain; Can’t Keep Living This Way; A Desperate Heart’s Last Stand.
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